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What should I do if my dog swallowed something?

Author: Rémi

All dog owners have certainly seen their pets swallow an object they were playing with moments before. This happens frequently and is a recurring reason for consulting a veterinarian.

If this behaviour is common in your dog, it’s called pica. When the animal is young, preventing him from tasting and chewing anything and everything can be difficult. This behaviour tends to dissipate with age. Plugs, plastic, socks, plant residues or pieces of glass, any type of object can be tempting and swallowed, which is not without danger to his health.

Did your dog swallow a foreign body? Does he cough as if something is stuck in his throat? In this article, we’ll talk about the risks involved in swallowing a foreign body, the signs allowing you to recognize when your dog has swallowed something and what to do about it.

A foreign body: what are we talking about?

In veterinary jargon, a foreign body is any inedible object that comes from the outside into the body of an animal. These foreign bodies can be found in the digestive tract (throat, pharynx, oesophagus, stomach or intestines) or in a wound, for example. In our article, we will focus on cases where the dog has swallowed an object.

It is helpful to know that dogs are more likely to ingest objects than cats.

My dog swallowed something: what are the risks?

Did your dog swallow a sock? A piece of plastic? React as soon as possible. Indeed, the ingestion of an object should not be ignored because the risks to his health are high.

Depending on the object swallowed, your pet may face:

  • Poisoning: in the case of ingestion of batteries, human medicine, plants or chemicals.
  • Digestive disorders: which can range from a simple irritation of the stomach causing diarrhea and vomiting to more serious risks with the formation of blockages causing either partial or total occlusion of the intestines.

This obstruction will result in the complete stop of the transit and progress of the faecal matter. If the object in question is pointy, it can cause perforation leading to peritonitis.

  • Parasitic infection: If the ingested object is contaminated with parasite larvae or eggs, the dog may contract a parasitic infection.

In some cases, if the ingested object is small, such as pieces of fabric or small toys, it can be evacuated through natural channels.

Symptoms of a dog that swallowed an object

It is usually difficult to detect what the dog has swallowed or whether it has swallowed an object. Symptoms can vary and are usually non-specific. However, there are some symptoms that may lead you to suspect that a foreign object has been swallowed.

Depending on the location of the swallowed object, the dog may show the following symptoms:

Foreign body in the stomach:

  • Deterioration of his general condition if not taken care of;
  • Stomach irritation, diarrhea or constipation, vomiting;
  • Gastritis;
  • Decreased appetite.

Foreign body in the intestines:

  • Bowel obstruction;
  • Feeling down;
  • Severe abdominal pain;
  • Absence of bowel movements;
  • Vomiting;
  • Fever in the case of peritonitis.

Foreign body in the esophagus:

An object swallowed and stuck in the dog’s esophagus can cause respiratory distress by compressing the trachea. The dog is unable to feed and may become anorexic if left untreated.

If you observe these symptoms or suspect your dog has ingested something, it is recommended that you take him to the veterinarian promptly as quick management improves the prognosis.

How to deal with a dog that has ingested a foreign body?

If you have a dog, you will probably be facing one day the ingestion of a foreign body by your dog. So it’s important to know what you need to do.

If the swallowed object is inedible but non-toxic (droppings, soil, plants, stone, cloth, or a small toy), let nature take its course by watching whether the foreign body is evacuated in the excrement and making sure to deworm him every 2 months instead of every 6 months if this behaviour becomes a habit.

If we are talking about ingestion of a solid object with symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting and pain, do not attempt to make your dog vomit as the object could cause more damage. In this case, contact a veterinarian for guidance.

In some cases, the dog may cough as if he has something stuck. This happens when a foreign body, even if as light as dust, is swallowed and irritates the throat. It can also be heart failure or tracheal collapse. You should take your pet to your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

It’s important to react quickly to the slightest suspicion of your dog swallowing something and take him to the vet, as prompt care reduces the risk.

How do I stop my dog from swallowing things?

If this behaviour is recurrent, it is important to consult a veterinarian to determine whether the cause is medical or behavioural. Blood or stool tests may be recommended to rule out a medical cause.

If this habit has a behavioural origin, the dog’s education is essential, especially if he is a puppy. Refer to a dog trainer to establish a rehabilitation program.

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